Being picky

Yesterday morning Guido cooked me a delicious homemade breakfast in our café. I had a soft poached egg on a hot buttered English muffin. The white was as white as white can be and the yolk was eggy and runny. I really should’ve been having one of my Mmmm… moments. However, unfortunately I happened to be sitting between two other customers. One was a three year old girl called Chloe – who spent the entire time throwing her jam coated toast on the floor – and the other, her five year old brother called Robin – who dedicated much effort to picking it up again and animatedly throwing it at my head. I feared the freshly painted walls behind me may take on the appearance of a splattered Jackson Pollock.

Not surprisingly I was reminded of an article I’d read a couple of weeks ago about a café owner in Torbay who instigated a policy of not allowing any children under 12 on his premises. Apparently he’s been inundated with complaints from outraged parents, and, words of encouragement from everybody else in equal measures. I have to say, I awkwardly find myself in the “encouragement” camp. The owner has been quoted as saying he simply wanted to create a nice quiet zone where grown-ups could sit, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere. I really don’t think that Chloe and Robin would totally get that. Nor, would their parents.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Guido stirring a worryingly large pot of lentil soup. “I mean, where do you stop?”

Where indeed Guido? Whilst I don’t think this was a question he expected an answer to, I gave it a considerable amount of thought anyway and decided I’d like to immediately ban anybody who came in here whistling before 8 a.m., would forbid entrance of either sex wearing plastic crocs clog shoes with socks, and, people with bad haircuts.

“It’s all about the customer,” said Guido magnanimously. “If you were too picky you’d never make any money.”

He did have a point. Perhaps I was being too harsh with the bad haircut embargo. Suddenly I was relaxing my ban to simply include the odd bad hair day. However I’m absolutely sticking to my guns about whistling in the morning. Particularly if it involved simultaneously wearing clogs.

Much as I like the idea (and children generally) of eating my poached egg and stodgy muffin in complete peace, you’ve got to be realistic about it. After all, this is Denmark Hill and there are just as many fruit cakes around here as there ever were when we lived in Bermondsey. Though I still can’t see anything wrong with wanting to once in a while escape from badly behaved kids, even if they do happen to be your own, to a place where I could sit, relax and soak up the solitude. In fact, I have a friend who has two children who once told me, and I quote – “thank God I actually like my own children because I can’t stand anyone else’s.”

“You have to be very tolerant in this business,” said Guido propped up in our bed later. “You’ll always find customers who want to complain.” He let out a big sigh. “The other day someone actually complained about the quality of my sausage – can you believe that?”

Now, that really is outrageous!

57 thoughts on “Being picky

  1. Some people just have the ability to write and all who reads it are transported to that place. You are one of those people. I am huge fan of your blog.

    Now as for the children, they could have been wearing white socks and crogs. complain about the sausage sounds like that person probably drives a very large car to compensate for “shrinkage”. Ivan


  2. So you have moved to Denmark Hill, how was the opening? Please give us details what is on the menu. Now I think that no kids under 14, yes 14 is quite reasonable. Children should not be seen and I can’t believe that you do not have a nanny to look after them. I do not patronize restaurants or cafés allowing kids, after all adults over 55 are the majority and a growing one so let the hipsters make their own arrangements. As for walls looking like a Pollock painting now that would be wonderful and you could claim to be a Art Gallery/Café. Of course if children’s free labour helps in the creation of art why not then, see I too can be flexible. But decorum is important if we are to avoid unpleasantness over poached eggs.


  3. I actually applaud the ban on kids under 12 idea. Someone and I have been to many a place where screaming children were there. Not pleasant at all.

    Additionally I’d ban anyone who thinks wearing pajamas out in public is ok.


  4. Here in New Hope, it is very common to see signs announcing no children under 12 in many boutiques, galleries and dinning establishment, and the owners could care less. The town isn’t exactly kid friendly though. I of course, don’t mind. Especially when kids squeal loudly. I then realize why some species eat their young.


  5. My tolerance for screaming children has diminished over the years I must say. Mind you, some adults can be a bit of a handful as well!
    I hope Guido has recovered from the slagging off of his sausage! 🙂


  6. When my son was very young, around 15 months old, we were at an Asian restaurant and he was happily eating (or teething) on his sugar snap peas when a child of about 5 years old began screaming and yelling which turned into a full on tantrum. The parents did the “Isn’t he cute?” look. The owner asked them to leave. They pointed to my son and asked why he was able to stay. The owner said, “He has good parents. You aren’t.”

    Hugs to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. t’s the parents I cannot stand. Once, I took my children to a really nice restaurant in town. They were so horrid I apologized to everyone and assured my children we would not go out to eat again for a long time. We did not go out for a long time. I cannot stand my own children when they act up, bot I love them dearly.


  8. As a teacher of 12-14 year olds, I am growing mighty weary of ill mannered kids and the parents who aren’t “parental” enough to teach them how to behave in public. Cafeteria duty is a war zone. Rolls flying, orange segments flicked across tables, students who cannot sit at one table…the list goes on and on. Your first paragraph reminded me of my experiences with children and food!


  9. I had to do a ‘net search to find out where Denmark Hill is located. The photos of the town are quite wonderful. I don’t know how anyone could define a bad haircut, given the diversity I see on the street these days. I was glad to find you here again, after all the distressing news in your part of the world.


  10. I’m with the child under 12 ban. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m afraid of going to restaurants. However, from my recent experiences you will usually only have that problem at lowbrow places like Home Town Buffet, Sizzler and Golden Corral.

    Now about your choice of words… I loved the opening paragraph but plastic crocs clog shoes with socks? Oh, I need brain bleach to get that mental image out of my head! LOL


  11. I totally get your point. I was happy my kids were not banned in any café but they were always civil and if they did get out of hand I would have immediately remedied the situation even when they were very little. Thankfully they would just sit on my lap and be fed.


  12. For me it is not children, but behavior that gets to me. And behavior is largely what the parents let them get away with. If I had behaved like that at that age, I wouldn’t have lived to this age if my mother were present.


  13. I hate to admit that Crocs were invented in Niwot, Colorado. They should be banned. I believe they are the responsible for the decline of style in the world


  14. I work in a university recreation facility that prohibits children for two hours a day—5pm to 7pm when ALL the varsity athletes are practicing and the paying adult members are coming in after work. There’s just no room for kids. Most people are reasonable about this policy, but the amount of anger this elicits from some people is terrifying.

    Moving forward I may suggest to them this is a perfect time to take their kids for a poached egg at the bakery/cafe a couple blocks down. . .


  15. I had two perfectly poached eggs at breakfast last June in a restaurant here called Mama’s Boy. (There is a sister eatery called Goodie Two-Shoes…) On the way out, I complimented the staff, and was shown the water ‘vat’ that produced the eggs, which as best I could tell involved a ‘vortex’ of simmering water. The assured me it was impossible to replicate at home:-( As to ill-behaved children, we were trapped on the last leg of a flight to Toronto years ago with a gaggle of them and their parents, the parents immune to accusing eyes. The sense of entitlement is impossible to fathom…


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